TOP TRUCK - ‘Bad Habit’

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

From a wide-eyed kid riding shotgun with his uncle in the backblocks of the lower Hawke’s Bay to independent owneroperator. Nathan Nicol’s megapersonality K200 Kenworth logger is truly a symbol of this man’s passion for truckin’.

The cabover K model Kenworth has morphed over the years since its release in the early 60s. The versatility of the cabover Kenworth is now legendary, and the model is firmly entrenched within fleets from one end of the country to the other. Some ply the highways in subtle, nondescript liveries that make them quietly blend into the masses on their daily journeys, and then you meet ‘Bad Habit’, a logger from Bay View in the Hawke’s Bay, with an attitude and personality larger than Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is a rig that has visual impact the moment you lay eyes on it; however, as you look closer you discover it’s not just the level of detail, but the attention paid to it that inscribes a lasting impression.

Photo: Imported genuine ‘Silverback Chrome’ mitre cut straight stacks go hand in hand with the American show truck scene.

Photo: The tag line on the rear of the matching 4-axle Patchell Billet trailer sums up ‘Bad Habit’ perfectly.

The man behind the compilation and build of this unit, and also found behind the wheel, is Nathan Nicol, a true ambassador for having pride in your ride. Chatting with Nathan we find that his passion is the net result of a lifetime of working in and around trucks, and being influenced by some of the industry’s finest, people who have never hesitated to impart their knowledge and trade practices.

Forty-two-year-old Nathan tells us how his first memories of trucking were back when he was just three years old and how he spent many hours riding shotgun in the cab of the new Fiat his Uncle Niven operated for Mangaorapa Station near Porangahau, carting fertiliser, stock and whatever was required.

Brian Bond at Farmers Transport Dannevirke gave Nathan his first real start, working relief driving jobs. He remembers one evening being given the keys to a new Nissan 380 loaded with 460 lambs for Hill Country Meats in Napier, and feeling like a million bucks on the return run home. It was there that Gary Ferrick taught Nathan a wealth of information through hands-on experience, like getting behind the wheel of a 420 FH Volvo at Weber, loaded with 45 bulls, and then driving back into town to the saleyards with Gary saying, ‘Don’t mess up your reversing into the yards because all those fellas over there are watching ya’… nothing like a little pressure to help teach you the ropes.Nathan purchased a Mini as his first car, and Niven, who was a motor mechanic by trade, rebuilt the engine for him, so as payment Nathan washed and detailed Niven’s truck and trailer.

Photos: Oxblood red interior, woodgrain dash, and gold bezels? No, no and NO!

The washing and detailing of trucks has become a passion of Nathan’s. It is when you hear him retell memories of being 12 years old and spending time with Barry Hermansen, at the time a driver for Renalls Transport of Masterton in a Mack Ultra Liner on logs, that you begin to understand why. He would be handed a bucket of soapy water and a brush by Barry at 5am on a Saturday morning and set about washing all the wheels on the Ultra Liner; great times said Nathan. On his 18th birthday Nathan’s Mum asked him what he wanted for his birthday, to which he replied ‘my H/T’, so she paid the $76 for Nathan to sit his heavy traffic licence…as well as buying him a T-shirt. The theory was a breeze, and the practical, for which he used the late Stephen Smyth’s Isuzu 370 Black Belt, was passed with flying colours. Upon his return to the yard with licence in hand, he was immediately despatched to collect and deliver a load of stock out of the local saleyards that evening… ah, the good old days.

Photo: The team – Nathan and Paula Nicol with son Cole and daughter Emma.

At 20 years of age Nathan met the late Alan Conway, a contractor with TCD, who was running a 420 FH Volvo. It was not long after this Nathan realised that between Farmers Transport and TCD he had enough relief work to leave his job at the Dannevirke BP. This was a turning point. The part-time relief driving led to his first fulltime opportunity, driving Alan’s Volvo at TCD when Alan decided to take a break from the road. Nathan fitted into the TCD culture well, with super clean units and a rule of no work boots inside the cab; golden values that had been instilled at an early age.
A short stint in Auckland with Pyramid Trucking Ltd led to an opening at Road Freighters back in Hastings with Dean Jones, starting out on a T600 and B-train and progressing to a K104G 32 pallet unit. “A fantastic company to work for, awesome gear and brilliant work,” said Nathan.

Photo: Special shout out to Southpac’s Mark O’Hara and Darryn Caulfield of Caulfield’s Signs and Graphics for all their assistance.

It was in 2007 that Nathan’s early days with Barry Hermansen at Renalls brought about a job offer running logs into Pan Pac, driving a Volvo for Barry and Pauline. “Another fantastic job that lasted the best part of six years, where they looked after us like family,” said Nathan. An opportunity opened up within Pan Pac and Nathan was successful in securing a contract as a new owner-operator for the mill. He bought a secondhand K104 to get the contract under way, then purchased his first new unit, a K108E. It is now just on 18 months since Nathan replaced the K108E with ‘Bad Habit’, the K200 you see here. The truck is powered by a Cummins e5 motor rated at 459kW (615hp), backed up by an Eaton RTLO22918B Roadranger gearbox and Meritor 46-160 diffs at 4.33:1 on Airglide 460 suspension. The log gear and trailer were supplied by Patchell Industries.

Photos: It is all in the detail – discreet shadow sign writing and hidden amber LED marker lights neatly tucked in behind the chrome slam locks.

“It has been quite the journey,” admits Nathan. “If not for the accounts management and back-up support of my wife, Paula, it would not be possible, as well as business mentoring from my great mate Shaun Thompson; awesome support from all angles.” We ask Nathan the significance of the rig’s name, ‘Bad Habit’, and with a laugh he informs us that he is often told his addiction to polishing and cleaning trucks is a bad habit. We would be the first to disagree with this accusation. In our eyes any operator who is capable of building and maintaining a unit to a level that would be at home at the famous IOWA 80 Show-n-shine in the States, while pulling logs out of some of the nastiest sites on the East Coast, has, we think, formed exceptional habits.

Photo: Where it all started – riding shotgun with Uncle Niven in the mighty Fiat.